Set your goals. Make a plan. Fulfill your dream.

What defines the beginning and end of your riding season? Is it the weather—do you live where it snows and therefore the first snowfall signals an end to one year’s riding season and spring marks the beginning of the next? Do you ride year-round and sync your riding season to the AERC calendar? Does the start of the school year mark the beginning or end of your riding for the year? How about Daylight Savings Time, when you lose those precious hours of daylight after work?

Riders in the Northeast either exchange their Easyboots for show shoes
or move to Florida for the winter in order to extend their riding season.

Tevis marks the end of the riding season for me. After Tevis, my horses need a break from training, I need a break from riding and we need a break from each other.

The horses’ version of laying on the beach. This is what vacations are for!

August, September and October are the busiest months of the year in the wine business. So, following Tevis, the horses get three months off. It’s their time for their bodies to heal from the months of hard training and racing, and it’s their time to just be horses. I give my tack a good cleaning and store it away in the tack room. I put all my Easyboots in their footlocker, to be organized, assessed, reordered or repaired as needed at a later date. I use this off-time to reflect on the year’s efforts and achievements. Did I succeed and if so, how? Did I fail and if so why? What lessons did I learn that I will apply to next year? People often ask me what my biggest success was this past year and I respond by saying “not making any mistakes.” (Well, there was that time I forgot to pack my saddle for a training ride on the Tevis trail, but even that didn’t foil the day of riding.)

Last week, at three months to the day, I pulled the mares out of the pasture. They are officially back in training. Time to Reboot the Mission. Doing so requires three important steps: setting goals, making a plan and fulfilling the dream.

Step 1: Define my goals for the season. I actually have several goals for the upcoming season (which for me commences with training in November and ends following Tevis). The #1 goal is to obtain that elusive COC (Certificate of Capability) for both mares. This requires my riding partner Jenni Smith and I complete in an FEI/CEI*** ride at a minimum speed. The ride calendar may be cooperative in 2014 (it wasn’t in 2013). There is buzz that a CEI*** will be offered in New Mexico in March and another in Montana in June. Goal 2 is to take my dear friend Kristan Flynn to several local AERC rides. Kristan and I rode thousands of miles together and once tied for first at the Virginia City 100 in 2008. Not long after that she contracted Lyme Disease, which robbed her of her favorite pastime–riding. Treatment has now made it possible for her to ride again. Goal 3 is to get my husband back in the saddle after taking a year off due to work. Goal 4: Tevis.

The best part about training is riding with friends. Here, well booted,
is Christina Kramlich Bowie, Kristan Flynn and me.

Step 2: Build a plan to fulfill my goals. This entails developing a training plan, juggling my schedule between work and riding. My training program has always entailed two days of riding per week focused on intense hill and heat (in summer) training combined with the Eurocizer for daily exercise. I take a holistic approach to my horses and so the training program is synchronized with a strict feeding protocol, veterinary and chiropractic care and superior hoof care.

It’s really important to have everything synchronized.

Step 3: Visualize my dream. Each year I start over. I don’t try to pick up where I left off the previous year. It’s a new year with new opportunities. I think about riding, not winning. I think about pushing my horses just a little bit farther and harder with each ride while carefully monitoring their progress. I think about the stunning scenery I will ride through and the wonderful friends I will ride with. I think about every action and how I can do something better. It’s hard to say which goal I am most excited to fulfill. It’s a toss-up between riding Tevis again with Jenni because we have so much fun training and competing together and taking Kristan to her first endurance ride in four years because I know how important it is for her.

I’m blessed to have a partner who supports what I do, cheers me along when I’m winning and picks me up when I’m down.